How to Travel With a Rucksack Backpack: Packing List & Tips

Every Packaholic Needs a Travel Rucksack (Seriously)

Do you have a tendency to overpack while traveling? I’m not judging, in fact, I too used to walk around with a heavy suitcase. But recently I upgraded and now I travel with a black rucksack backpack instead and I haven’t looked back. If I could, let me open your eyes to these awesome packing tips that I live by and you’ll love.

Why You Should Consider a Traveling With a Backpack Rucksack

There are a couple of reasons why you may want to opt for carry-on travel instead of checking your bags.

For one, if you’re traveling somewhere new, it will become a mission to try and get from the airport to your place of stay. Depending on the time you arrive, transportation may be packed, taxis might be in little supply, and you may have to spend an hour or so figuring out where to go. Do you really want to be dealing with all of this while also lugging around a suitcase the size of a human person?

Of course, there are perks to having a checked bag. Sure, you have everything you need for the trip. From experience, I can tell you that it’s not worth it to have this stuff with you. It will get in the way and you won’t even use everything in there.

Not only are you saving yourself the stress of trying to transport heavy luggage. But if you want to travel like that, it’s up to you. Moving on, I’ll talk more specifically about the best rucksack packing tips that I use every time I travel.


Pick the Best Rucksack for Travel, or Any Backpack for That Matter.

Although I love traveling with a rucksack, I’m not saying you have to buy a rucksack. The only thing I stress is that you look for a high quality backpack. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank, but at the same time, you want to look at it as an investment. In the end, if you’re willing to buy a backpack, you might as well buy something that’s versatile.

In the end, I decided to buy a rucksack backpack, rather than a regular backpack because I think it’s versatile enough to use every day and practical enough for packing.

So, What is a Rucksack and Why the Heck Do I Keep Talking About it?

A rucksack is a bag with shoulder straps, usually made with sturdy, water proof materials. They’re really good for hiking. Most people think of canvas bags when they think of rucksacks. Nowadays, rucksacks come in different models and materials, some even more durable than canvas.

There are hundreds of rucksack styles out there to choose from, so it really just depends on what you’re looking for.

Which Rucksack Style Backpack Should You Go With?

If you plan to use your rucksack for travel then I recommend that you stick to these general categories in your search:

  • water proof rucksack
  • computer rucksack or laptop rucksack
  • roll top rucksack
  • urban rucksack or rucksack for cycling
  • modern rucksack (or minimalist)

More Tips for Finding the Best Travel Rucksack Style For You

I think if the backpack is waterproof, or at least water resistant, that’s a major benefit. Laptop rucksack models are almost always water proof, as they are meant to protect electronics.You also need to make sure that it’s comfortable, as you’ll be walking around with it. Bags that have padded shoulder straps, a padded back panel, and adjustable straps are usually pretty comfy.

It’s also important that the bag has enough pockets, but not too many pockets. I say this because it’s hard to keep track of your belongings if you store them in random miscellaneous pockets. This can lead to theft, especially if you’re in an enclosed space with other people, say on the train or in a store. Just remember that is at arm’s reach for you, is also at arms reach for someone else.

I really like the roll top rucksack model because I feel it’s more secure than a standard zipper backpack. But if you’re not traveling with electronics or expensive equipment then you should be fine with a standard zipper opening.

For those of you that want something a little more fashionable, the urban rucksack model or the modern rucksack are both viable options. These styles are smaller in size (think Timbuk2 or Chrome), and some of them aren’t waterproof.

High-Quality Materials is What It’s All About

When it comes to the quality of backpacks, it’s important to be knowledgeable of what materials to look for. There are basically two options out there that work for me and that can hold up on a trip.

  • Ballistic nylon is a safe bet, and it’s affordable as well. This material is tough and thick so you know it’ll hold well on any trip.
  • Another material that I think would be best for travel is tarpaulin. This stuff might be a bit pricier, but it’ll last you a long time.
  • Some people prefer to invest in a leather rucksack or leather backpack. Leather is expensive, but if that’s your preferred aesthetic, then by all means.
  • A canvas rucksack or backpack is not the way to go, people. It won’t be comfortable for travel and it also won’t hold everything you need. Sure, it looks effortless, but so is the quality.

One more thing to add about what to look for in a travel backpack. This might just be me, but I appreciate a travel backpack that has easy access pockets. It takes away the anxiety of rushing to get out my boarding pass and holding up a big line. If this sounds like you, try to keep your items in hand, otherwise, make sure you can quickly access them in a convenient side pocket.

And finally, when you travel with a backpack always double check that it fits the carry-on parameters provided by your airline. 

Now that you have a general idea of what to look for in a bag, I’ll break down how to efficiently pack a backpack or rucksack.

Rucksack Backpack Packing Tip #1: Narrow Down Your Packing List

The key to traveling with a backpack is to travel with as little as possible. That means shortening down your packing list and streamlining your items.

The goal, in the end, is to:

  1. Only bring what you absolutely need.
  2. Only bring things that are versatile and multifunctional
  3. Only bring what you can carry

Keeping that in mind, here’s how you should be creating your packing list.

Rucksack Backpack Packing Tip #2: Separate Your Items Into These Five Categories

Alright ladies and gents, now’s the time to break down my packing list. I’ve separated it into six categories for your convenience.

When packing your travel items it’s easier to break them into smaller categories and create separate checklists for each category. That way you focus on each area at a time and prevent leaving behind anything important.

Here are the five packing categories you should start with:

  1. Clothing
  2. Toiletries
  3. Important Documents and Itinerary
  4. Electronics
  5. Daypack Checklist


Everything that you need for a 4-5 day trip should fit into one of these categories. If your items don’t apply to these, then you can leave it behind. Trust me, you’ll survive.

Next, I’ll discuss how to pack each section with space-saving efficiency!!

Rucksack Backpack Packing Tip #3: Pack Your Wardrobe the Right Way to Save Extra Space


Okay, so assuming you’re going on a 3-4 day trip, this list will work well for you. If your trip is more than 10 days, you can still use this list but you’ll have to find a way to wash your clothes while you’re there.

Another disclaimer, this list won’t work for business travelers or people who want to be fashionable while they travel. I’m sorry, but I’d like to assume that if you’re traveling, you’re doing it to take in the sights, not to take Instagram pictures.

If you don’t have a problem with wearing the same shoes the during the whole trip, and you’re okay with dressing in layers, then here’s your practical and space saving travel list.

#1: Clothing Packing List

  • 3-4 jeans or pants
    • Make sure these are colors that you can match with your shirts. To save space, wear one pair on the way to the trip. Pack the other two pairs in your bag. Roll up your pants as tightly as possible and pack them in the bottom.
  • 3-4 shirts
    • Mix it up with short sleeve and long sleeve so that you’re prepared for any weather conditions. Long sleeve shirts will allow you to layer in case it gets cold.
  • An appropriate jacket
    • If you’re going to be in warm weather, you can skip this. If you expect to get cold, bring a windbreaker or feathered-down jacket that’s lightweight. You’ll also want to wear your jacket in flight to save packing space.
  • One pair of shoes
    • You don’t need dress shoes, walking shoes, running shoes, etc. Just bring one pair of nice looking, comfortable shoes. A good rule of thumb is if you’re going to bring another pair, make sure that it’s half the weight of the first shoe.
  • Undergarments and socks
    • Bring up to 6 pairs of socks and undergarments, as these don’t take up too much space.
  • 1 pajama set
  • 1 towel if necessary
    • Double check where you’ll be staying to see what amenities will be provided.

Rucksack Backpack Packing Tip #4: Be Smart When it Comes to Packing Your Toiletries

If you plan on traveling with a carry-on it’s important to remember the rule about liquids. For most American airlines the limit of liquid you can bring on a plane is 3.4 fluid oz inside one quart-sized clear bag. But anything that isn’t liquid does not have to fit inside the quart-sized bag.

To avoid having to check your bag, buy travel size items or purchase them after you’ve gone through security. There’s also the option of buying your toiletries at the location you’re staying at. Another thing to keep in mind is that some places offer amenities such as towels, soap, shampoo, and lotion. If you believe this will be available to you, then you can leave it out of your packing list. But if you want to play it safe, here’s a toiletry packing list you can use:

#2: Toiletry Packing List

  • Solid shampoo
  • Solid deodorant
  • Toothpaste (travel size)
  • Toothbrush
  • Razor
  • All purpose lotion (travel size)
  • Sunscreen lotion (travel size) or stick
  • Hand sanitizer (travel size)
  • Hairbrush (travel size) and hair ties
  • Makeup (solid makeup is best)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Solid detergent sheets (for washing clothes)
  • Prescription medication & eyewear

Rucksack Backpack Packing Tip #5: Your Passport is Your Life So Pack it the Right Way

Important documents such as your passport, tickets, and itinerary should always be placed in a secure location. My recommendation is to keep everything in a gallon sized plastic bag, that way you can easily spot your belongings at a glance. You can also buy travel wallet and card holder, which zips up and allows you to organize your money, cards, and everything you’re traveling with.

#3: Important Documents Packing List

  • Passport
  • Travel tickets
  • Itinerary
  • Keys
  • Money
  • Credit cards
  • ID
  • Receipts

Rucksack Backpack Packing Tip #6: Be Safe When Travelling with Electronics

Unless you plan on doing work that requires a laptop, don’t bother bringing it. Not only will it add weight to your backpack, but you’ll remain worried all the time. Same goes for the camera, bring it only if you think you’ll need it.

A good way to monitor how much you’re bringing is to restrict yourself to only 3 electronics:

#4: Electronics Packing List

  • Laptop
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • Tablet
  • Chargers
  • Portable battery

Rucksack Backpack Packing Tip #7: Pack These Things to Carry With You at All Times

After you’ve checked into your accommodation, you can unpack your bag and use it as a daypack. Here are items that you might be interested in carrying with you throughout your daily travels.

#5: Daypack Checklist

  • Waterbottle
  • Sunglasses or hat
  • Chapstick
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Money
  • Phone
  • Phone Charger
  • Map

Stick to These Ultimate Rucksack Packing Tips

These are my go-to packing tips that I’ve been using for all my travels and they’ve saved me money and space. If you want to travel on the fringe, I highly recommend traveling with a rucksack or any other travel-friendly backpack. It’s low cost and the most independent way of travel, I think.

If you have more packing tips you’d like to share, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to add it in!


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